A new approach to reflections, goals, and a sustainable path

I want to share an alternative approach to annual reflections and setting goals that helps to create a life that feels meaningful and rich to YOU.

My current favorite structure for reflecting on one year and setting goals for the next is the same debriefing exercise I use each evening on guided backpacking trips.

It’s called roses, thorns, and buds.

Here’s how I do it:

I scroll back through my google calendar (because it’s easy to forget what happened last week, let alone 12 months ago!) and I look for highlights or accomplishments (roses), events that were challenging or didn’t go as planned (thorns), and lessons that I want to carry into the coming year (buds).

This exercise not only fills me with gratitude for what went well, but self compassion for what didn’t go so well, and ideas for how I want to set intentions and goals for the coming year.

How do you then choose goals that are actually meaningful to YOU and help you create a life that’s uniquely yours; a life you love?

I look through my roses to see what core values they represent. Why were they roses? What do they reveal about what matters to me at a core level?

For example, some themes I noticed: physical and mental health, time spent intentionally (outdoors, with friends and family), service and mentorship, physical challenge, skill growth and learning.

I use this information to create goals for the coming year that encompass these values (rather than arbitrary goals that are defined as the gold standard by society, but which are meaningless to me).

If the goal is not an expression of, and in alignment with, who I am and who I’m becoming, I’m unlikely to stick to the actions needed to achieve it, and at this point, I’m simply not interested.

As I consider where I want to focus my attention in the coming year, I’m asking myself: What is in alignment with my core values? What kind of person do I want to be and how do I want to shape my character?

Once I have a concrete goal, how do I get there?

Because a goal without a plan is just a wish.

When I work on my own goal list or support clients with theirs, we start with breaking the goal into manageable steps, each of which is made up of quantifiable actions (e.g. to run a marathon, I need to run x minutes per week). Those specific actions must then be scheduled as specifically as possible (e.g. I’ll run 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8am).


How many of us know what to do but don’t do it?

The key to doing what we say we want to do is in rewiring our habitual thoughts and behaviors so that our subconscious, which is responsible for 90% of what we do, is on board. This can be done through neuroplasticity tools, like pattern interrupts and mental rehearsal. Our brains can change at any age, which is very exciting!

And one last reminder on goal setting:

Even though I’m writing this at the start of a new year, that’s an arbitrary date on the Gregorian calendar. You are on your own timeline. Please do not pressure yourself with artificial deadlines.

May we divest from the diet culture mentality of extreme action and quick fixes, and instead set goals and act from a place of what’s aligned and sustainable for each of us.

Happy New Year, friend.


PS. I’m currently taking on new 1-1 coaching clients.

What do you want to achieve in 2024?

Whatever your goals and wherever you hope to go, I’d love to help you get there.

One of the ways I do that is through private coaching. By working together 1-1, I’ll support you in achieving your health and/or adventure goals through a customized program centering on any/all of the following:

  • dialing in a sustainable health routine so that you have the mental and physical energy for everything that matters to you in 2024 (including better endurance and recovery on trail)
  • using neuroplasticity techniques to change unwanted habits and wire in new ones so that you can finally follow through on your goals
  • guidance with trip planning, gear selection, trail nutrition, and more so that you can spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

Feel your best and be able to say YES to any adventure that comes your way!

If you’re curious about coaching with me and how it might help you reach your goals more enjoyably and sustainably this year, contact me. From there, we’ll chat about what to expect from coaching and whether working together is a good fit. There’s no pressure and no obligation.

Read what past clients have said here.

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